CNET's Donald Bell takes a hands-on look at the new dual-screen Android tablet/e-reader from Entourage, the Pocket eDGe. The design features a 6-inch Wacom e-ink display, attached to a 7-inch color LCD running a custom version Google's Android 1.6 OS.
Donald BellSenior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Sometimes, convergence between two devices happens so naturally that you hardly notice. You wake up, and your iPod and your phone are the same thing, and you wonder how you ever managed them as separate devices.
Some convergence is a bit more blunt. Case in point--the Entourage eDGe, a dual-screen tablet and e-book reader CNET reviewed in March of this year. In a perfect world, there would be one screen that offers e-ink readability as well as LCD features like color, photos, and video playback. Not content to sit and wait for this mythical color e-ink technology to arrive, Entourage literally links the two screen types together to deliver the best of both.
Is it an elegant solution? Nope. But it works, and it delivers the experience of marking and annotating e-books like nothing else on the market. Its biggest problem (aside from the $490 price) was its unwieldy size.
To answer this criticism, Entourage is now selling the Pocket eDGe--a scaled-down version of its original product offered at a scaled down price of $399.
The two connected screens of the Pocket eDGe include a 6-inch e-ink Wacom tablet on the left, and a 7-inch (800x480) resistive LCD touch screen on the right. Like the original eDGe, the Pocket version includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g, and USB sync and host ports. You also get a microSD memory slot to expand on the 3GB of internal memory, built-in microphone, and built-in 2 megapixel camera capable of video and stills.
During our hands-on demonstration of the Pocket eDGe, we noticed that the modified Android 1.6 OS performs much faster than original eDGe we tested in March. We're told the performance boost is entirely due to software optimizations Entourage has rolled out to users over the past few months.
Compared with any other popular e-reader on the market, the Pocket eDGe is still a little chunky at a half inch thick when open, and an inch thick closed up. Still, we have to admit, it's a much more portable proposition than its predecessor.
We won't make any final judgments until we have more time with the device and formulate our rated review. That said, there are some inherent drawbacks to the device potential buyers should be aware of.
Unlike the original eDGe, the Pocket eDGe is deliberately not targeted at an academic audience due to the way PDFs display on the smaller 6-inch e-ink screen. PDFs can be zoomed in and out to increase readability, but unlike ePub files, you can't reflow the text to easily adapt to smaller screens. To make a long story short, students and teachers are still urged to use the larger, original eDGe, which has no problem displaying the academically preferred PDF format at its native size.
Those looking more at the Android side of this dual book should know that the Pocket eDGe is still living in the ancient land of Android 1.6 and makes no apologies for not including Google's Market app store. Entourage does include its own storefront for shopping books, magazines, and apps (including Pandora, Facebook, and Dropbox). Still, it's fair to say the Pocket eDGe isn't the right product for hard-core Android fans (a criticism that holds true for the recently unveiled Nook Color, as well).